Top Stories

May 11, 2018

Technology & Innovation

Apple backs Alcoa, Rio Tinto to develop carbon-free metal making

Apple is backing a joint venture between metal producers Alcoa and Rio Tinto to develop a new aluminium-making process that eliminates greenhouse gases. The Alcoa-Rio joint venture, which will get initial funding of C$188 million (US $147 million), will be based in Montreal. While Alcoa and Rio are developing the technology, which they plan to put on sale beginning in 2024, Apple said “it helped facilitate” the collaboration and will provide technical support as well as investing C$13 million in the joint venture. “We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminium produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products,” Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a statement. Rio and Alcoa are to invest C$55 million, while the Canadian and Quebec governments will each invest C$60 million. (Bloomberg)

Corporate Reputation

Novartis admits $1.2 million in payments to Trump lawyer

Novartis has admitted to paying $1.2 million to an entity owned by Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the year following his 2017 inauguration, drawing the company deeper into a controversy over whether multinationals improperly sought access to the president’s inner circle. The payments, made in $100,000 monthly instalments to Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants, were intended to help the company navigate the new administration’s healthcare agenda following a campaign in which Trump had vowed to scrap Obamacare reforms. AT&T, which was accused of paying Essential Consultants $200,000 and had a $85 billion takeover of Time Warner pending before US regulators, has also acknowledged hiring the firm “to provide insights into understanding the new administration”.  Although it is commonplace for major multinationals to hire lobbyists close to an incoming administration to influence legislation, Michael Cohen was not a registered lobbyist and served as Trump’s personal attorney during his time as a property developer. Critics have characterised the funds as a “pay for play” agreement whilst the multinationals deny any impropriety. (Financial Times*)


London mayor to ban junk food ads on tubes and buses

Junk food adverts are to be banned from London’s tube and bus network by Sadiq Khan, the city’s major, in an attempt to curb an epidemic of childhood obesity. Ads that promote foods and drinks that are high in salt, fat and sugar will no longer be accepted on tubes, buses and overground trains that are part of the Transport for London (TfL) network – nor in stations. The ban is currently out to consultation. Although adverts for full-sugar Coca-Cola would no longer be accepted under the plans, Diet Coke ads could still run. McDonald’s will be unable to advertise a Big Mac and fries but could promote its salads. Food and drink advertising contributed about £20 million in revenue to TfL in 2016/17 – around two-thirds of it for food and drink that was high in fat, salt and sugar. (Guardian)


China’s environment watchdog targets waste as pollution battle escalates

China plans to carry out nationwide inspections targeting the illegal transfer and dumping of waste that damages water resources and soil. News of the crackdown came as mayors for seven cities were summoned to a meeting at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in Beijing to account for their cities’ failure to tackle the problem following recent inspections. The ministry ordered them to submit plans within a month to improve their systems for disposing of spent chemicals, oil, medical, animal and other waste, and to step up scrutiny of companies that spew toxic refuse. Plans for sweeping checks mark a shift in focus for the environmental watchdog as it expands its reach beyond curbing emissions from heavy industrial sectors. It also comes after state media reported a firm in Lianyungang, a major chemical and refining hub in the eastern province of Jiangsu, was illegally dumping its waste water with at least six listed companies having since halted operations due to a crackdown following the report. (Reuters)


India offers garment workers counselling after spate of deaths

Garment workers in south India are to receive counselling to help them cope with problems from work pressure to sexual harassment after a series of deaths in factories and hostels. Twenty have died in the last three months in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, a garment manufacturing hub, many in suspected suicides. “There is a lot of stress and trauma inside factories,” said Aloysius Arokiam of Social Awareness and Voluntary Education, a civil society group. “The workers are treated as machines and not as young adults dealing with work pressure and emotional issues. There is no counselling to help them and no one is held accountable when they die.” The Dindigul administration will run sensitisation workshops in a first-of-its kind effort to improve working conditions in up to 200 spinning mills. “The idea is to empower girls to report harassment, help them to deal with the work pressure and give them opportunities to continue their education,” said the head of the administration T.G. Vinay. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


*Subscription required

Image Source: Southgate Underground by Dun.can on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.